Why Kenya’s presidential election matters
Kenyans vote on Tuesday to choose a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta after a decade in power. The race is tight and could go to the second lap for the first time.
One of the main contenders is Raila Odinga, an opposition leader in his fifth presidential run who is backed by his former rival Kenyatta. The other is William Ruto, Kenyatta’s deputy who fell out with the president.
Both tend to focus much more on domestic issues, raising the question of how either will follow Kenyatta’s diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in neighboring Ethiopia or disputes between Rwanda and the country. congo.
What’s at stake?
Kenya is the economic center of East Africa and home to around 56 million people. The country has a recent history of turbulent elections. Even then, it stands out for its relative stability in a region where some elections are deeply contested and where longtime leaders such as Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were declared winners with almost 99% of the vote. , or have been widely accused of physically cracking down on suitors.
Kenya has no transparency in campaign donations or spending. It is estimated that some candidates for Parliament and other positions spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain power and its benefits, legal and illegal.
What are the main candidate platforms?
Ruto, 55, presents himself to the young and the poor as a “scam artist” who had humble beginnings as a chicken seller, unlike in the elite circles of Kenyatta and Odinga. He seeks greater agricultural productivity and financial inclusion.
Agriculture is one of the main drivers of Kenya’s economy and around 70% of the rural labor force is employed in agriculture. In his final campaign speech on Saturday, he said if elected, his government would deploy 200 billion shillings ($1.6 billion) a year to increase job opportunities.
Odinga, 77, famous for being imprisoned while fighting for multi-party democracy decades ago, has promised cash handouts for Kenya’s poorest and more accessible healthcare for all. In his final campaign speech on Saturday, he said if elected his government would, in its first 100 days, start paying 6,000 shillings ($50) to families living below the poverty line.
What do voters care about?
Odinga and Ruto have long been among the presidential candidates, and there is apathy among Kenyans, especially younger people in a country where the median age is around 20. The electoral commission recruited less than half of the new voters it had hoped for, just 2.5 million.
Key issues in every election include widespread corruption and the economy. Kenyans have been hit by rising food and fuel prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and this comes after financial hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a third of the country’s young people are unemployed.
When will Kenya have a winner?
Official results will be announced within a week of the vote. To win, a candidate needs more than half of all votes and at least 25% of votes in more than half of Kenya’s 47 counties. No outright winner means a runoff election within 30 days.
The previous presidential election in 2017 made history when a high court overturned the results and ordered a new vote, a first in Africa. If the courts again request a new vote, such an election would take place within 60 days of the decision. The candidates or others have one week after the announcement of the results to file a request with the court, which has two weeks to rule.
“I want you to know that we as a country are at an inflection point,” Odinga told the crowd listening to his campaign speech on Saturday. “Either something very good will happen or something terrible will happen.”
He has sworn to shake hands with his “rivals”, whether he wins or loses.
Ruto said on Saturday he would “respect the decision of the Kenyan people” and would not accept violence or participate in anything that undermines the constitution.